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Perched in the clouds above Santa Cruz's pounding surf lies a world that Ents might choose as a home. The Santa Cruz Mountains often get less attention than the county's stunning beaches, but after a few days exploring the redwoods and rambling streams you won't think twice about bypassing the beach (at least occasionally). The blink-and-you'll-miss-them towns of Bonny Doon, Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, La Honda, and Scotts Valley house quirky renegades, who, piggybacking on the naughty reputation of the Roaring Camp Railroad that runs between Santa Cruz and San Jose, settled beneath the Douglas firs and planted their own roots. ...

Perched in the clouds above Santa Cruz's pounding surf lies a world that Ents might choose as a home. The Santa Cruz Mountains often get less attention than the county's stunning beaches, but after a few days exploring the redwoods and rambling streams you won't think twice about bypassing the beach (at least occasionally). The blink-and-you'll-miss-them towns of Bonny Doon, Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, La Honda, and Scotts Valley house quirky renegades, who, piggybacking on the naughty reputation of the Roaring Camp Railroad that runs between Santa Cruz and San Jose, settled beneath the Douglas firs and planted their own roots. Besides the area's timber-draped existence, the travelers (and dwellers) who trek uphill past the vineyards, organic farms, and state parks will find artsy galleries and eateries, plentiful parkland, and good-natured folks ready to lend a hand. Surprises come at every turn. There's a German beer garden with a bounce house for kids, a Bigfoot Museum, a poolside bar, swimming holes, redwood trails, and camping in Big Basin State Park. A variety of animals, including bobcats, mountain lions, hawks, and snakes inhabit the forests — nope, no one has sighted Bigfoot round these parts lately. And you can bet once you arrive, the calm of mountain living will invade your senses, making you feel OK that your phone doesn't get service up here.

Michele Bigley
About the Expert

Michele Bigley is the author of Northern California: An Explorer's Guide and Great Destinations Kauai from Countryman Press.

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Michele Bigley for Triporati

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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Summer, fall, spring.